Add to Your Bag of Tricks

Avoid the mental slog that sometimes arrives in the middle of a novel unit with unexpected and, dare I say, fun activities that will keep your students reading, thinking, and writing. I use occasional evergreen activities that were created to work with any novel and rotate them into the curriculum whenever students’ enthusiasm starts to wane during a mid-novel grind.

policeFor example, let’s say we’re half-way through The Outsiders. Sure, I have my standard short answer study questions and discussion topics, but I also throw in this real-world Police Report activity. I use it after the church fire in the book, but you could use it at any point authorities interact with the Curtis brothers. I’ve used the same worksheet when Huckleberry Finn fakes his own death at Pap’s cabin and (spoiler alert!) when Jay Gatsby is shot in his pool.

Another student favorite is this cell phone characterization activity. I ask students to pretend they’ve found an iPhone that belongs to one of the characters we’ve met in the past few chapters. Then, they have to fill in wallpaper, email correspondence, and playlist information, which helps them peel back the layers of characterization. I’ve used this with The Odyssey, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Catcher in the Rye. Really, though, it works with every novel.

cellIn English class, we want students to write frequently for a variety of purposes and audiences. It’s even better when students view a writing assignment as a fun break. Go ahead and trick them into wanting to write. It’ll stay our little secret.

Teach on!

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5 years ago

I used this last week. Not only was it a great resource but my kids gave me their playlist favorites in answering question #3. I googled the lyrics and used some for my bell ringer quotes (I simply put 3 quotes up semi-on-topic and ask them to talk about them kind of ESPN minute clock style). Kids LOVED seeing their songs beside Mark Twain and Mort Alder. Would not have known the songs that resonate without this activity! Thanks!

Laura Randazzo
5 years ago
Reply to  Jerry

FANTASTIC way to hook our curriculum to your students’ interests, Jerry. Love this idea! 🙂

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